10 Most Exciting Player Developments of the NBA 2012-2013 Season
Now that the NBA season is underway, it is time to start looking at potential developments of storylines as the season goes on.
Players from around the league worked to improve their games all summer long, and for some it will pay serious dividends.
Many factors go into a player improving from season to season. His offseason workouts, learning new wrinkles in his game, and getting an expanded role with the team are all reasons players improve.
Here are ten players who will put up some of the best numbers of their careers this season thanks to the development of their games this offseason.
10. Bismack Biyombo Learns How to Hone His Skills Inside
The Charlotte Bobcats are paced to go 82-0 this season! Well..at least for now.
Charlotte picked up its first win of the season, topping Indiana to snap a 23-game losing streak dating back to last season.
While Bismack Biyombo didn't do all that much in the win, look for him to be a bigger factor for the Bobcats as the season roles on.
The Ziare native is still only 20 years old and has a lot to learn about the NBA game, but he made tremendous strides this offseason to be a better post player.
Biyombo had a very strong showing in the Bobcats' summer league this year, putting up 8.6 points, 6.0 rebounds, 1.8 blocks, and shooting over 55% from the field in 21 minutes per contest.
While admittedly it was against weaker competition, Biymobo looked notably improved and much more comfortable getting the ball in the paint. If Biyombo can continue to learn some decent post moves, his size and strength should make him a force down low.
Biyombo may not scare opponents just yet, but he has the potential to be a solid big man if he continues to improve.
9. Jimmer Fredette Regains His College Confidence
Jimmer Fredette didn't crack the Kings rotation in their opening game of the season, but when he does get his opportunity in 2012-2013, Fredette should be ready.
Despite being a lottery pick with all the hype in the world last season, Jimmer was unable to really break out and struggled immensely in his first season as a pro.
Now, however, with a full year of NBA action under his belt, Fredette should take the next step in his game.
In his recent piece on Fredette's improvement for the upcoming season, NBA.com's Scott Howard-Cooper makes particular note of Fredette's new-found vocal leadership and confidence.
When Fredette was lighting it up at BYU in his college days, you would be hard pressed to find a more confident player in the country than him, but the NBA is a whole different beast. And with all of the expectations in the world on his shoulders, Fredette lost his swagger last season.
This year, though, he will need to get it back if he is going to crack the rotation in the Kings guard-heavy roster. If he doesn't, his NBA career may be much shorter lived than he anticipated.
8. Jeff Green Looks to Make Up for Lost Time
Boston fans and executives would likely forgive Jeff Green if he got off to a slow start for the Celtics this year.
After all, Green is coming off heart surgery to treat an aortic aneurysm that caused him to miss all of last season. However, Green is not willing to let it be an excuse for his play, and if the offseason is any indication, he should have a solid season in Boston.
Green made comments over the summer to Molly McGrath of Celtics.com that he would be more aggressive and assertive this season on the court, and he will need to be to be the Celtics game-changer off the bench that Doc Rivers hopes he can be.
Green's big project in the offseason was being able to take reps at both the three and the four position so that he can play either seamlessly by the time the season came along.
In the game against Milwaukee, Green showed glimpses of doing just that and being another key piece of the Celtics bench. Green scored 11 points, had two steals, and shot five for nine from the field in 27 minutes combined in the two positions.
Once Green gets back fully to 100 percent, his new aggressive approach on the offensive end should lead to him and the team reaping the benefits of his hard work in the offseason.
7. Amare Stoudemire Gets Some Quality Time with The Dream
Amare Stoudemire is right on the verge of breaking into elite status in the NBA, and maybe all he needed was some training time in the offseason with one of the NBA's greatest players of all time.
That's exactly what Stoudemire got this offseason, when he spent two and a half weeks training with Olajuwon in Houston. He then worked with him even more when Hakeem worked out some of the Knicks players, including Stoudemire, in September.
Stoudemire is an explosive offensive player who can attack the rim and shoot from the perimeter. But after working with Olajuwon, Stoudemire may be able to add another facet to his game, a dominant back to the basket post up game.
Olajuwon also worked with Amare on improving his ability to play alongside superstar teammate Carmelo Anthony.
Olajuwon was able to excel in his career playing with Ralph Sampson and Clyde Drexler, so if Stoudemire can heed the advice The Dream bestowed upon him this offseason, it could spell out great things for the Knicks in 2013.
6. Rodrigue Beaubois Is Finally Ready to Shine in Dallas
For years now, there has been one word associated with Rodrigue Beaubois: potential.
Beaubois has all of the speed, vision and scoring ability to succeed and become an above-average NBA point guard; however, a combination of injuries and lack of consistent playing time has seen Beaubois fall below his potential to this point in his career.
However, this is the season that Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle believes that Beaubois will finally "put it all together," according to NBA.com's Earl K. Sneed. It's not hard to see why.
With Jason Kidd, Jason Terry, and Delonte West all out in Dallas, this is the year that Beaubois finally won't have to worry too much about veterans in front of him taking away playing time, and he should have a chance to earn his minutes. Also, after improving his strength in the offseason, Beaubois looks primed for a breakout season.
In Dallas's opening game of the season, Beaubois shined in the Mavs upset over the Lakers with 11 points and five assists.
5. Jeff Teague Prepares for Bigger Role with the Hawks
Danny Ferry has set a new tone in Atlanta this season, and the one player who may benefit the most from it is the team's starting point guard, Jeff Teague.
With "Iso" Joe Johnson no longer clogging up the offense, it will be Teague's responsibility to run the show for the Hawks, and he is in position to have his best season yet.
Teague has the weapons around him that he needs to be a dynamic point guard. With Al Horford in the post, Josh Smith running the floor, and shooters like Carlos Delfino and Kyle Korver lighting up the wings, Teague will have a myriad of options to get his teammates involved.
Last year, Teague showed the ability to score and shoot effectively while also racking up assists. Now that there is no Joe Johnson to slow him down, Teague could take it an extra step by becoming the teams top player this year.
4. LeBron Adding Yet Another Weapon to His Arsenal
As if LeBron James needed another offensive weapon to add to his repertoire.
Over the offseason, after he was done winning NBA championships and gold medals, LeBron James worked with former NBA MVP Bob McAdoo on adding a new weapon, the skyhook, to his offensive game, according to ESPN.com's Michael Wallace.
LeBron doesn't have Kareem Abdul-Jabaar's 7'2'' frame to work with when using the skyhook to yield off defenders, but he does have tremendous footwork around the rim and the willingness to do whatever it takes to be the best.
It remains to be seen if LeBron can really implicate the skyhook effectively in his post up game, but when and if he does it will be yet another move that will daunt defenders who match up with The King.
3. Minnesota Timberwolves Focus on Defense First
Yes, I know this article is focused on individual players and their progress in the offseason, but I couldn't pass up putting in this nugget from the Minnesota Timberwolves and their head coach Rick Adelman.
Adelman, despite being known throughout the league as being one of the top offensive minds in the game, opened up training camp focusing predominantly on defense this offseason.
This a genius move by Adelman, and if the T-Wolves buy in, they could be something really special in 2012-2013.
With a healthy Ricky Rubio returning, key additions such as Andrei Kirilenko and Brandon Roy, returning players like Derrick Williams and Nikola Pekovic all joining superstar Kevin Love, the T-Wolves have the makings of being a dangerous team out West.
However, the Western Conference is as deep as it's ever been, and if the Timberwolves are going to be in the playoffs this season, being a great offensive team isn't going to be good enough. They will need to be lockdown on the defensive end.
Adelman's focus on defense can't just be in the offseason, however. It will need to last all year long. If he can get his team in the top half of the league's defenses, watch out for Minnesota this season.
2. Kawhi Leonard Set to Continue the Success in San Antonio
Tim Duncan doesn't have many years left in San Antonio, and the Spurs have been building for his eventual departure for the last several years.
Manu Ginobili won't be around too much longer either, which means soon enough this will be officially Tony Parker's team, if it isn't already.
But many have wondered who will join Parker as the Spurs number two in the post-Duncan era. The answer may very well be second-year man Kawhi Leonard out of San Diego State.
Leonard fit like a glove in the Spurs system last year and made the All-Rookie first team. This year, he will look to take the next step and become the All-Star caliber player that he is capable of being.
After just one season, Gregg Poppovich already is thinking long-term for the Spurs' next great. "If the planets and agents and that sort of thing line up, we'd love for him to be a Spur for life," Popovich said to Fran Blinebury of NBA.com.
Leonard is not only a capable scorer and rebounder, but he brings intensity to the defensive end of the court that makes him stand out on a night in and night out basis.
In the offseason, Leonard worked with Spurs assistant coach Chip Engelland on continuing to improve his outside shooting and adding more to his dribble drive game.
In the Spurs' opener against OKC, Leonard's improvement was evident. He scored 19 points, had seven rebounds and recorded five steals in San Antonio's win.
1. James Harden Is Tearing It Up in Houston
James Harden's initial reaction when he found out that he had been traded from the Oklahoma City Thunder to the Houston Rockets was likely one of disappointment.
After all, the Rockets aren't anywhere near being championship contenders, and OKC, with Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, had the potential to be a dynasty in the making in the Western Conference.
However, after two regular season games, you can be sure Harden doesn't have the same feeling about the deal anymore.
In Oklahoma City (and with Team USA), Harden was a role player, coming off the bench to add scoring when the team needed it, making open threes and being the difference between a good team and a great one.
Now, with Houston, he is the difference between a horrible team and an exciting one. Harden's Rockets may not even make the playoffs this year, but with Harden and Jeremy Lin in the backcourt, one thing for sure is they will be fun to watch.
Two games into the season, Harden is averaging a measly 41 points per game to go along with seven assists after dropping 37 and 45 against Detroit and Atlanta.
Now that he has a team where he can dominate the ball, James Harden can finally do what he could never do with the Thunder: become a superstar.
Harden isn't going to average 40 all season long, but he is capable of going off at any time, especially getting the shots he will get in Houston's offense.
The Rockets won't win immediately with Harden, but they may have found the cornerstone of their roster for years to come.
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